North Korea has been quietly asking for international coronavirus aid as it maintains that there are no confirmed cases in the country, according to a Thursday report.
Within the country, the state propaganda has promoted Juche, a political ideology of self-reliance created by Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, according to Vox.
The Financial Times reported Thursday that officials have been secretly seeking international help in the last several weeks, citing people familiar with the matter and a document it had viewed.
According to an anonymous source, 590 people have been tested in the country and yielded negative results for the virus after returning from overseas trips in January.
“The government has testing kits for COVID-19 and they know how to use them, but [the number of kits are] not sufficient, hence, [officials are] requesting all organizations … to support them in this regard,” a person involved told the Financial Times.
North Korean state media reports have said as many as 10,000 people have been quarantined in the country over the past two months.
Medical aid is slowly making its way into the country, but sanctions and border checks have hindered international aid organizations, Reuters reported.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called for exemptions to sanctions so essential medical equipment and supplies can be shipped into North Korea.
“It is vital to avoid the collapse of any country’s medical system — given the explosive impact that will have on death, suffering and wider contagion,” Bachelet said, according to the Financial Times.
However, even if groups are able to import personal protective equipment and other supplies, North Korea’s border quarantine measures have placed those shipments on hold, according to Reuters.
The North Korean state-run KCNA news agency reported that all imported goods will be placed in quarantine for 10 days as part of the country’s “super strong prevention measures.”
“North Koreans need assistance and have asked for it, but things are now on hold,” one source from a humanitarian group told Reuters.
In a statement to Reuters, Doctors without Borders said authorities agreed to transport their supplies from Beijing and Dandong, China, despite the border closures, but it remains unclear when the supplies would reach North Korea.
North Korea is ill-equipped to handle an outbreak like the one sweeping the world because of its lack of medical supplies and weak health care system, according to Business Insider.
World leaders are also wary of North Korean officials saying COVID-19 has not reached the communist country.
South Korean news organization Daily NK reported that 180 North Korean soldiers died after testing positive for the coronavirus in January and February.
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